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It has been over a month since our plane took off from O’Hare Airport and it has already been quite the experience! I have yet to really blog about France and here are my keen observations regarding that other Red, White, and Blue country:

1) Scooters

Remember 10 years ago when it seemed every kid had a razor scooter only to be immediately disgarded and shelfed after a solid summer? Well apparently that trend never died in France and they are everywhere to this day. Kids ride them up and down the block like I rode my bike when I was 7. Adults ride them to work (no joke) and even bring them on the bus. It is just one of the many transportation options that should have been killed years ago but still remains popular.

Minus Wolverine this is typical.

I feel like for the amount of effort you put into into riding a scooter, you don’t get much of a return. You can only go so far with those 14 oz. wheels and an awkward center of balance.

2) Fashion

The French dress nice, they really do and it’s somewhat embarrassing how inferior we are on a day to day basis. They deck themselves out: Scarf, berets, layers, muted colors, Louis Vuittons under their under arms!

3) Strikes

To quote my structures teacher, “the French have a proud tradition of public uprisings.” And he couldn’t be more right because they always seem to be going on the strike. The first thing to go? The public transportation system. You see, they play the game that if you get other people mad who don’t have anything to do with their demands, then The Man must cave in. Which sucks because we and the rest of the public who are even more dependent on public transit aren’t able to travel from place to place as easy. However, it also makes it really difficult to have that same structures teacher make it from Paris to Versailles to teach us some maths.

On an unrelated note, I learned all about the French and their striking way of life in Sicko oddly enough.

4) P.D.A.

The French don’t hold back when it comes to P.D.A. Guys and gals everywhere are just mackin’ it. On the streets, on the bus, on a bench, everywhere. Hide yo kids, hide yo wives!

5) Cigarettes

They also feen (spelling?) cigarettes like no other. One of the most common stores in France are tobacco shops, there is probably one every 3 blocks. There is one in Champaign, a college campus no less. Their smoke of choice seems to be rolling one up themselves with or without marijuana sprinkled in there.

6) McDonalds and Starbucks

I’m going to make an entire post centered around McDonalds but to generalize they are extremely common. France and the rest of the world make fun of us for our obesity (and for good reason) but I’ve noticed that there are a buttload of McDonalds and they’re always packed with people. A bit hypocritical no? You’d think that they would want to eat at a number of places before ever considering McDonalds. But then again, all those calories are usually burned off by the end of the day because they walk so often.

Also, Starbucks is extremely common as well. If you’re ever in France, you might as well walk half a block to the nearest cafe.

7) English?

Not so much. The French don’t speak a whole lot of English like I was told before leaving. They speak a little English but for anyone who doesn’t speak a lick of French, it isn’t enough. Restaruants know basic English well but people on the street will give you a look if you are speaking English. That’s happened like 5 times these past 2 days.

The French also talk very quietly. As Americans, we are obnoxiously loud compared to them. In public adults are almost whispering to each other. Our kind on the other hand are always laughing and yelling up a storm where ever we go- that’s probably why we warrant an unwelcoming stare wherever we go.

Do they speak English in “What”?

8) Weather

The day I left Chicago the temperature was in the 70s/80s I can’t remember. The moment I stepped outside of the airport I couldn’t help but notice how noticeably cooler it was. I forgot the fact that Europe is higher in Latitude than Illinois. Despite how much cooler it is in the fall, Paris has may actually have a warmer Winter with the help of the good ‘ol North Atlantic current – the one that stops working and is responsible for all the destruction in The Day After Tomorrow. Time will tell though because I don’t really know who or what to believe at this point.

In general, the weather has been sporadic in which I mean, it’ll be cold, dreary and damp in the morning, and warm, sunny and awesome by noon with a drop off in temperature by night. The weather is extremely unpredictable but according to our program director, ” It [Versailles] gets more rain than London.” Now that is harsh.

9) Drivers

Everyone in France drives like an inner-city taxi cab driver – absolutely bat shit. You really have to be careful with them because they don’t follow many of the basic guidelines of driving an automobile. You even have to be careful crossing at a crosswalk with a green light I am that dead serious.

Driving Instructor: You’re a nice young man and, yes, I am your friend.

Borat: You will be my boyfriend?

Driving Instructor: No I will not be your boyfriend.

10) The French Are Assholes

The French really are assholes. I gave them the benefit of the doubt but they truly are assholes. They may be a proud people, but they are just as conceited to anyone who isn’t French. I have been laughed at so many times at the grocery store or what have you. In a setting where I am giving them money, they still find it amusing to laugh at our broken attempt at French. Sometimes they don’t laugh but are just down right rude. For instance, I went to order food at McDonalds and the woman at the cash register barely acknowledged my existence and showed no human compassion whatsoever. I ordered in French too! AND who is she to be snooty towards me? She is a French citizen who works at McDonalds, probably the most American symbol on the planet next to the flag. When I went to Germany and Belgium, those people were so nice and even helpful at times. The French are the complete opposite except for the French farmer who helped us out on our Normandy trip. Other than that, everyone in the Paris metropolitan area of French descent is an ass. There I said it.

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Playoff Predictions

My beloved White Sox fell way short of the Division title despite winning 88 games. I must say that I wasn’t expecting them to win that many games during the pre-season. In fact in recent years, 88 games will win you the AL Central Division Title. But the Twins had to steal the show after the All-Star break and completely shut us down for the year. Alas, another season has passed but that doesn’t mean I will stop paying attention to baseball. The post-season has arrived and here are my picks: (expect extremely casual analysis without little to any merit).

AMERICAN LEAGUE

ALDS: Rays-Rangers: Rays Win in 4.

First of all, I really like both teams. The Rays are the antithesis of The Yankees – small market team, based centered around versatility, speed, and defense. The Rangers haven’t been to the post-season in over 10 years and are starting to make a turnaround in their organization spearheaded by Nolan Ryan.

that Nolan Ryan.

This is certainly the most difficult series to predict and easily the most interesting. Both teams have ridiculous pitching. I think Texas has the edge with their hitting but the Rays are more efficient with runners on base.

But if I had to decide I would say the Rays simply because of their ability to win with their outstanding defense and speed. Also, a pesky home field advantage doesn’t hurt as well. And everyone on that roster is thinking at the back of their mind when they will have another opportunity like this?

Either way if the Rangers win, I’ll be ecstatic. They deserve to be a force to be reckon with. Plus, I love Cliff Lee.

ALDS: Yankees-Twins: Twins Win in 5.

As a White Sox, I love the Minnesota Twins. They’re the most respectable opponent in baseball second maybe to The Rays. They’re just so god damn efficient. I don’t know how Ron Gardenhire does it year in and year out. They always seem to have question marks on their roster (most notably Justin Morneau and Joe Nathan this year) and yet always seem to defy expectations. They too rely on their speed but also they seem to always come through in the clutch. I don’t know how they can stay so consistent year after year.

The Yankees are the Yankees. I hate the Yankees. I hate their philosophy on baseball and I hate their obnoxious fans – easily the worst. Most Yankees fans aren’t even from New York. Seriously? How can you not root for the team that is geographically closest to you? Those people aren’t baseball fans. Being part of a team means that you stick together through good and bad times. So when you actually have a shot at glory, there is no better feeling. Yankees fans do not understand that because they are spoiled brats. They’re the Veruca Salt of Major League Baseball.

“I want a golden goose now!”

But I will say this: every sport needs a villian. The Yankees are the ultimate villian. Someone has to do it. Just like how Lebron took that niche this past summer.

so gay.

Ultimately I truly believe the Twins will win this series because this is arguably the best Twins team we’ve seen in years. They’ve also been one of the hottest team if not THE hottest since the All-Star Break. They may not have a true ace but their rotation has been surprisingly consistent and unbearably confident. Liriano’s 14 wins is incredibly deceiving and the rest of the pack can put up a fight against all the Yankees starters except for maybe Sabathia.

The Yanks power and hitting will bolster their chances but after C.C. their rotation isn’t what it was last year and they should never underestimate out The Twinkies.

Plus, I love Jim Thome.

ALCS: Twins – Rays: Twins win in 7

Again, any team that isn’t named The Yankees making it to the Championship Series will be extremely satisfying. Both of my picks are two teams I would love to see go all the way. But in the end, if I had to roll the dice, I would like The Twins have a shot at the title. No analysis needed, just a simple guess.

National LEAGUE

NLDS: San Francisco – Atlanta – San Francisco in 5

This is where my analysis gets even more shady as we venture in the National League but here’s what I think anyways. San Fran and ATL are the two teams people don’t truly expect to make it past the Championship Series. But if I had to give an edge to either or it would have to be San Francisco. Their pitching is underrated entering the playoffs and they actually started swinging the bat again after a lengthy absence.

The Braves have had lights out pitching in September as well but ultimately prevail with their hitting especially without Chipper Jones and Martin Prado. If there is a reason The Braves continue to the next round it’s because of Bobby Cox. The dude is in his final season with the organization and they want to do it justly.

scary, intimidating old man.

NLDS: Phillies-Reds – Phillies in 4

Oh Philadelphia. Entering the 2008 season, I was too worried about the Cubs winning it all (which couldn’t have been more true), I wasn’t focusing on what would be the first World Series win for what could very well be a dynasty team. This year is no different. The Phillies are way too sick nasty with their pitching: Halladay, Oswalt, Hamels. It is a shame for the underdog-ish Cincinnati Reds. The Reds will put up a good fight with the amount of pop in their offense but pitching is what wins you championships. And Philadelphia has 3 starts that can easily anchor an entire team. Halladay is undoubtedly the NL Cy Young Winner and has never even had the chance to go to the post-season. He will finally have that chance for ultimate glory which is a ridiculously scary thing. Oswalt was on the ’05 Astros staff when they made it to the Series but we all know that got swept from a much highly superior team. He asked to be traded to a contending team and here he is behind Halladay to make up the greatest 1-2 combo in the post season.

It really is a shame because the Reds are an excellent baseball team that defied expectations and then some this season. The few things holding them back are their spotty record against first place teams and their starting pitching. Not one of their pitchers stands out as a true ace  but certainly have the stuff to compete. Ultimately, the Phillies pitching is too overpowering.

NLCS: Phillies-San Francisco – Phillies in 5

Same story. Phillies pitching is too damn good. Stupid Phillies.

World Series: Twins – Phillies

One half of this match up is who I want there, and the other half is who will probably come strolling in. I really like the Twins but I can see any of these AL teams making it to the Series – even the Yankees. But its the Twins who I want to take the Big Kahuna – for the AL Central and for arguably the most efficient organization in baseball. The 2010 Twins remind me of my beloved 2005 White Sox. There certainly are similarities: No lights out starters, excellent bullpen, the ability to score runs in several different ways, and a team that defied expectations.

But what about the Phillies? Their offense respectively matches up with the Twins but they also have the best rotation in the post season. I hate to say it but I think in the end, the Phillies will make it to the series for a third straight year and win it all. I don’t like it but I like their chances of winning if we’re talking probability.

Players I Will be Rooting For

  • Jim Thome: I love Mr. Incredible. It was sad to see him go but he really didn’t fit in to our preliminary plans entering the pre-season. However, in retrospect it would have been nice to have Thome’s production value if he was not an everyday DH like he was with Minnesota. Regardless, the nicest guy in baseball deserves a ring and he may never have another opportunity like this ever again.


  • Buster Posey: The dude is a stud. What can I say? A rookie catcher that is bringing  a spark back to the SF lineup that hasn’t been seen since well, Barry Bonds?
  • Roy Halladay: No one should hate on Halladay for being on the Phillies. Is it really his fault he was tearing it up in baseball purgatory with Toronto and had enough of it? The guy is one of the best pitchers of all time, just give him a ring.
  • Joey Votto: What is not to like about him? You’re an asshole if you have a problem with him.
  • Nick Swisher: Because he’s Nick Swisher.

great episode of How I Met Your Mother

Terrorist Threat Alert!

A few days ago, the United States issued a warning to all Americans in Europe that there was a higher risk of a terrorist attack based on “cumulative analysis.” The State Department did not mention any specific cities but suggested that anyone near areas of tourism and public transportation should be alert. As a result, my school cancelled a trip to Paris to examine the site for our design project. They thought with the risk of an attack, that having 48 American students congregating at the same train station might not necessarily be a good idea so instead we’ll be going this Friday 🙂

However, we also have a research paper for our History of French Architecture class that requires us to visit the site of our building. Mine is in Paris. It’s the Val-de-Grace. Regardless of what it is, I am required to go to my site, take some pictures, sketch the main facade, along with a few other typed up research details by Friday in order to receive full credit for Appendix I.

Val-de-Grâce

So today, despite the warning issued out a few days ago, I ventured into the heart of Paris to complete my assignment or die trying of course. I took the train into Paris from Versailles and had to transfer at St. Michel Notre-Dame, which just happens to be the station right next to Notre Dame Cathedral, a hot spot for tourists. It was also the location of a bombing that happened in 1995. I was somewhat nervous transferring off at that spot but I knew that I had to continue on with my life and that this is just a warning and nothing is absolutely guaranteed. The terror alert was raised up dozens of times during Bush’s presidency. But I was reassured as well as intimidated to see many armed guards walking around the station. However, you do have to remember that you can’t be afraid and must go on.

typical French soldier

And in the end, I came back in one piece AND I found some really helpful information along the way for my research paper. It is certainly an interesting time to be living in Paris, for better or for worse. I hope for the better.

Oktoberfest (not edited)

Months prior to our arrival in France, most of my classmates and I decided to go to Munich, Germany for the biggest beer bash on the planet, Oktoberfest. It wasn’t easy but after months of Facebook messaging one another, we booked our flights along with our “room + board,” and immediately the weekend of the 18th of September became one of the most anticipated events of the year.

The majority of the people attending Oktoberfest had flights leaving Paris early Saturday morning, with mine along with a dozen others, taking off at 8:15 AM (hey Flight 815!). Our program directors organized a bus to take us all to the airport, in an attempt to avoid any potential train issues, and ensuring our departures and gratefully so. However, we had to wake up early enough to be on the bus by 5 AM. Buuuut it was well worth it to say the least.

We waited an hour and a half at the terminal for our plane to arrive and soon enough we were on our way to Munich. We were excited to say the least.

We arrive at the Munich airport and immediately, I learned something about Europeans that we’ve consistently been told about from our program directors: Americans are loud and Europeans are not. The Munich Airport sounded like a library it was so quiet. With hundreds of people around, hardly anyone was speaking louder than a faint whisper. So you heard it hear first people, Americans are LOUD. We needed to buy train tickets for the Munich railway system and had a little trouble figuring out what the most cost effective train pass would be for 30 college students. Luckily, two completely different women gave up their train passes good for 5 people for the whole day to our group. Who’d a thought that German people were so unbelievably nice? Because I certainly did not.

Our first order of business was to check in at Wiesn’Camp, where we were staying the night. But first, a little info regarding Wiesn’Camp. Wiesn’Camp is at company (that I believe is owned by a local brewery) that rents out a soccer field and places tents and trailers for the young, daring Oktoberfest goer. Basically it’s like the Quidditch World Cup.

Minus the threat of Death Eaters.


But Wiesn’Camp is really cool because its a crowd of a bunch of young people from all over the world. Met some people from The States, Canada, Ireland throughout my stay. They also sell food and drinks for all meals of the day, which includes half-liters of beer for breakfast apparently because I saw people drinking at 10 AM. The people at the front office even screwed up our tent situation by assigning us a preoccupied tent. As a result, we received complimentary beers on their behalf.

cheers Guv’na!

I have never tasted a German biere before, in fact, I don’t think I can even name a single brand. But when my lips tasted my first of what was to be many German beverages, I was completely caught off guard by the sheer quality of the world-renown Bavarian Pilsner taste.  The contrast is uncanny. The foam was thicker than most beers and that too was even delicious, it may have even contributed to its amazingness. Now I am not a biere connoisseur, despite my spelling of the word “beer” would imply, in the slightest but I could definitely taste a difference from beers back home – which isn’t saying much considering the highest quality of beer found at most college campuses are Corona (if you want to even call that high quality, but really let’s be honest, it’s the cool, hip brand that attracts us to Corona), Heinken, and 312. Not exactly the cream of the crop, but trust me on this one – there is a BIG difference.

By the time we were settled in and ready to go to Oktoberfest it was about 1:00 and the festival had been open for a whole 3 hours at that point! That’s the equivalent to like 8,000 liters already consumed, we had work to do. The people at Wiesn’Camp gave us terrible directions, despite their remedial English skills, and we took a bus that led us to a station that was much farther away than the one they attempted to recommend, which was a 10 minute walk away. Regardless, we made it to the station and this really awesome Australian woman told us the fastest route to get there from the train station. So first two women give us free train passes, then we get a complimentary half-liter of Wiesn’Camp’s finest, and then this Australian women tells us the best route to the grounds, along with words of conventional wisdom and within 3 hours of arriving to Germany we realized how much the French are simply assholes. The amount of courtesy we received was unprecedented in Germany. The French would never have helped us out like their Eastern neighbors did. What jerks.

We arrive at Oktoberfest and it’s completely packed. Similiar to the crowds at The Taste and Lollapalooza only there are locals wearing Lederhosen and Dinrdls, and oddly enough there are a number of children with their families. We walk outside the train station and amongst the Oktoberfest crowd we there are food stands, beer tents, and a surprising amount of carnival rides as far as the eye can see.

Now who is going to want to ride that after drinking?

My group and I decided that we should get in line and try to get into a biere tent but little did we know that in order to truly get into an Oktoberfest biere tent you need to either do the following: a) secure a reservation months in advance, b) get there early in the morning before the doors open and storm the hall like it’s the Bastille when they do open their doors, c) wait over 4 hours, or d) bribe your way in. Fortunately the waiting line was next to one of the tent’s outdoor bieregartens and we drank a few steins while we waited in line.

“To alcohol: The problem and solution to all of life’s problems.”

A stein is about one liter in volume. A liter is the equivalent to 34 oz. Which means one large stein at Oktoberfest is the equivalent to about 2.666 (repeating of course) beer cans. And at about 9 euros a piece, that is one hell of a deal. Oktoberfest is a Bavarian tradition and not a corporate money grab as to the likes of Lollapalooza or sporting events. Therefore, the local breweries chose their prices at their own discretion which is a very good thing to the consumer – especially for students.

The rest of Oktoberfest was a blast. Basically it consisted of wandering around with people, drinking, eating, and waiting in line to go to the bathroom. Some people even snuck into a tent with the help of a shady, German security guard. I on the other hand only made it into one when the the night was dwindling down and I was on my way to the train when I hear Queen’s We Are the Champions, emitting from a roarious crowd in the Hofbrau Tent. Now the weird part was I was singing the song all day. From the early morning and onward because I read the night before that Sacha Baron Cohen was casted to play Freddy Mercury in the upcoming Queen biopic. My tent-mate, Andrew, and I immediately entered the vicinity, marveled at the site of a beer hall at day’s end, and joined in on the harmonies of thousands pretending they were the Queen front man, or soon Borat for that matter.

Sleeping at Wiesn’Camp was interesting to say the least. I did not take into account how cold the ground was going to be. It’s not my fault, I’ve never been camping. I had my REI sleeping liner but that did very little from the laws of thermodynamics from transferring my body heat to the ground. But I drank enough Bavarian refreshments to not care too much at all. Some people didn’t even bring  anything and resorted to spooning and layers upon layers of clothes. But no such luck. Those people froze.

In the morning, people left for the respective flights back but I had until 4:30 til my flight left so I and a few others spent the day in Munich exploring the city. We saw some cool architecture and a museum dedicated to German and Flemish painters. I took the train to the airport all by myself like a big boy and had lunch: Currywurst and Fries with a Fanta to wash it down.

it wasn’t until two bites in did I realize I should take a picture.

On the plane ride back, I was reflecting on what was an unbelievably fun weekend. Somehow Oktoberfest lived up to the hype. It really did. It was intense, but was still well maintained. I feel more in danger at The Taste than I did at Oktoberfest. I know someday I will come back under these conditions: 1) I go with my close friends from back home, 2) we stay there for at least 2 nights, and 3) we get in a beer hall tent. I now know what to expect and most of the ins and outs. Now it is only a matter of time. I can’t wait to go back.

Normandy Trip (not edited)

After a lovely day in Paris, which included eating and drinking along the Seine River on Septemberr 10th, my friends and I decided we were going to take a somewhat spontaneous trip to Omaha Beach. If you don’t know what Omaha Beach is you might as well stop reading right now and go back to Communist Russia. After going through all the logistics til 1 AM we devised a plan that would go as this:

  1. Wake up early enough to catch a train from Versailles to Paris at 7 AM
  2. Transfer at Invalides and take the 8 to St. Lazarre
  3. At St. Lazarre, buy a train ticket to Caen, France. (2 hr + train ride).
  4. Arrive in Caen, buy a train ticket to Bayeux (city closest to Omaha Beach)
  5. Arrive in Bayeux, eat lunch, find a way to Omaha Beach whether by bike or by bus.
  6. Hang out at Omaha Beach, see whats around.
  7. Get back to Bayeux.
  8. Grab some dinner.
  9. Find a place to sleep.
  10. In the morning, buy a train ticket head back home.

Pretty solid plan right? I know. Sure we weren’t exactly certain how we’d get to the beach or where we were going to sleep that night but that’s what an adventure should be like.

In the morning, my roommate John and I took the bus to the train station, with the anticipation of having about 10 minutes or so to spare before the train took off for Paris. Unfortunately, more than half way there, the bus driver told everyone that they had to get off the bus because he apparently had somewhere to be at 6:45 in the morning. With no time to spare, John and I took off to the train station for a quarter of a mile sprint. Out of breath, and with a few minutes to spare, we arrive at the Rive Guache train station and find our friends Rob and Pia patiently waiting for us and whoever was seriously interested in coming along for the journey.

After transferring at Invalides, we got on a line that took us to our destination, St. Lazarre, before heading off to Normandy. We bought the next train ticket to Caen, but since we left Versailles so early we had an hr and a half to kill. But that’s ok because sleep deprivation only makes trips and adventures all the more interesting. We walk around the neighborhood for a while. We don’t find anything too interesting except for a really narrow McDonalds sandwiched between two apartments. Little did we know, the Parisian opera house was a few blocks away which is the same place where the Phantom of the Opera takes place.

The Phantom of the Opera’s lair.

Anyways, while we were waiting for the train to arrive, our friends Andrea and Natalie met us at St. Lazarre and all 6 of us boarded a train to Caen. Pia, Natalie, Andrea, and Rob sat in their own booth while John and I sat right next to them until a couple named Jim and Pam decided to sit next to us.

from left: Rob, Pia, Natalie, and Andrea.

Normandy countryside. What a beautiful day.

As it just so happens, Jim and Pam are from Pennsylvania, just west of Philadelphia.  We had a lot to talk about for several reasons. Jim and Pam mentioned they owned a second home in none other than SCRANTON! Jim and Pam from Scranton!? What are the odds? You may be thinking they were just pulling our chain but these were blue-collared, sports loving people from Eastern Pennsylvania people! I don’t question the validity to their claims, and even if they are stretching the truth or flat out lying it still makes for a great story. To quote my old roommate, quoting Mark Twain, “Don’t let the truth get in a way of a great story.”

SKIP THIS PART IF YOU DON’T WANT TO HEAR ME TALK ABOUT SPORTS AND THINGS OF THE LIKE.SO Jim and Pam (kinda) from Scranton were telling John and I all about their lives, which of course in my world consists of city pride and sports. For any non-Chicagoans creeping on my blog, the Chicago Blackhawks faced the surprising, but fearful Philadelphia Flyers in a chance to bring the Stanley Cup to the Windy City for the first time in 49 years. And in anticlimatic fashion, Patrick Kane scored the goal in overtime to eliminate our championship drought of a horribly long 5 years.

“Wait!…Did it go in!?……IT WENT IN OH MY GAWG WE WON!”

Anyways, we talked about the Stanley Cup for a while but I don’t think they wanted to talk about it for obvious reasons. But the best part was when I first asked if they were Flyers fans, and having already known we were both from Chicago, Jim immediately said “Congratulations.” Which is basically the equivalent of getting on his knees and exclaiming “We’re not worthy! We’re not worthy!” in true Wayne’s World fashion. But we also discussed important issues such as the Phillies and how awesome it was to have their team win it all in 2008. What surprised me the most was that when they arrived back at the ’09 Series, they claimed that everyone in Philadelphia knew it just wasn’t happening. To which I was highly skeptical but that’s what they claim I suppose. I can go on and on about what we talked about but the more important story at hand is Normandy, and I have not forgotten.

OK YOU CAN READ NOW. After a two hour train ride into Caen, we considered renting a car and driving the rest of the way to Omaha Beach because our travel book mentioned it would be the easiest thing to do. However, in Europe, they drive mostly in manual and not automatic which posed a problem because none of us knew how to drive stick shift (note to self: learn stick shift someday). So we decided taking a short train ride to Bayeux would suffice but what we did not know is that the same train we arrived in Caen continued to Bayeux. We looked online for train schedules the night before and we couldn’t find a train to Bayeux from Paris anywhere. The lessons hear are to look at every possibly website when planning to travel, and sometimes its just best to ask the people working at the ticket counter.

We arrive in Bayeux which is a quaint little Medieval-esque town with a really ballin’ Gothic church. http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bayeux

Bayeux Cathedral. ballin’

We grabbed a quick bite to eat at the Boulanger (pronounced Boo-Lawn-Jay in a French accent of course) which is a bakery for those who want to hear me sound extremely pretentious. Ham+Brie cheese sandwich? 4 euros. Close to the office of tourism we found a little shop that actually rents out bikes. We knew such a thing existed near the Normandy beaches and we figured with our budget and our desire for adventure, we seized the opportunity to ride our bikes to Omaha Beach. It can’t be that far. Right?

Little did we know, Omaha Beach from Bayeux is 17 km away.

Which is the equivalent to 10 miles (I googled it). Not too far but far enough to make anyone tired. But here’s another factoid we didn’t really consider: FRANCE IS HILLY. Like really hilly. And all those hills made it all the more difficult getting to our destination. But in the grand scheme of things, none of us regretted it one bit. Riding to Omaha Beach was my favorite bike ride of all time. We saw so much of the French countryside I wouldn’t normally see flying or even driving for that matter. It became increasingly apparent that moving at bike speed may be the best mode of transit when truly enjoying the scenic landscapes a road trip has to offer.

After a hardcore 1.5 hr session of biking, we made it to Omaha Beach. The first thing I noticed was the resort next to the spot where literally thousands of American soldiers had gave their lives. I am not saying that that is entirely inappropriate on the French part, but I was quite surprised.

There was even a golf course. huh?

I must admit though, I was even more surprised to see that the bunkers that you see in Saving Private Ryan where the Germans housed their MG42s and the like were not the least bit well kept. There is probably over 40 years worth of vegetation that has sinced covered the facade, which I can understand the French’s lack of enthusiasm for keeping it trimmed but still, this place is an extremely important location in World History. You’d think it would be better preserved. Also, the door that leads to the room where all the German machine gunners were protected was completely sealed off by concrete. I was expecting to be able to go inside and peer into the ocean and just imagine all the D-Day invasion from the German perspective. I wasn’t going to pretend to be shooting anything but I thought it would have been a very, fascinating view. What I am trying to say is I am not a Nazi.


Remains of the German bunkers.

We did some more exploring around the beach and saw a few memorials and plaques before making our way to the American memorial and cemetery. Call me un-American or what have you, but I had no idea there was a cemetery at Omaha Beach. The cemetery was huge. There were a lot of graves, and a lot of which were not marked with any names. It being September 11th and all, I was already feeling a sense of patriotism and pride you don’t necessarily feel everyday, but being in the presence of all those young fallen soldiers made me grateful and hopeful that I don’t have to go through anything like that in my lifetime.

After reflecting on our own lives and the lives of all those affected by World War II we decided that it was getting dark soon and we should start heading back to Bayeux before the shop closes at 8 PM, otherwise pay an additional fine worth who knows how much. We were especially not looking forward for the first segment on the way back because arriving we had to ride down the steepest hills I’ve ever rode down and the thought riding them back was too horrible to even think about at the beach. Luckily, we didn’t have to take that route because we were on a one way street as we approached the beach and had a take a different one way route to leave. However, (and this is where the adventure in all this truly happens) 3 of my friends decided to separate from the group to ride faster. Now anytime you separate from your group in a place you’re not familiar with, let alone in a different country, let alone in BUFU of said country, is a really bad idea. A really bad idea.

In the beginning of the ride I made sure to stick with one of the girls that was the slowest rider so she wasn’t alone in case something happened or she just fell really behind. Well, when the others decided to ride faster, we quickly fell behind and they were not in our line of sight. So myself and the two others eventually came across an intersection and made a wrong turn. We did not know we made a wrong turn but we did. We continue riding for over a kilometer before we begin to realize that this was not the way we came back. A moment of terror pumped through our blood veins but we used one of our newly bought cellphones to call the others and explain we got lost. We call them and we realized that turn we made over a kilometer ago was indeed a wrong turn but ALSO they mentioned how they were riding for a long time going in the wrong direction as well. So with all that information gathered, we hoped we would eventually run into each other. On our way back to the intersection, the girl who was going the slowest had her chain come off of her bike!

Another moment of terror rushed through our blood veins but I immediately alleviate the situation because I’m just awesome like that but the thought of that chain coming off again haunted me for the rest of the ride back. Shortly after we find the other three who were way ahead of us and they explained the road we were taking eventually turns into a highway. And this is the point we definitely realized we are returning back to Bayeux via a different route from before. Fortunately, Rob had a GPS system with him and we assessed the situation and found a way to get back to Bayeux without going on a highway.

It’s starting to get really late at this point. If we continue trekking along we should make it back to the shop well before 8 until the most unfortunate thing possible happens. John Sterr’s wheel pops. It is completely flat on the bottom. All hope of getting back on time is completely dashed and easily our lowest point in the entire trip. Oh and Bayeux is still over 14 kilometers away at this point. We continue riding hoping he’ll be able to keep up fast enough but it soon proves hopeless. We need to find a solution. The number to the bike shop was on the back of all of our bikes and we call the shop owner to explain the situation. He doesn’t speak a word of English. (GOD DAMN IT!) With our limited knowledge of French we try our best to explain what the hell is going but to no avail. We’re struggling communicating with him for a good 8 minutes or so before Andrea waves down the nearest oncoming vehicle which was a tractor. This French farmer gets out of the tractor and he speaks a little English (THANK GOD) so we give him the phone to serve as an interpreter for both parties involved all the meanwhile laughing because of how desperate and stupid we must look.

The farmer gets off the phone and tells us that there is a church up the road that the shop owner is going to to pick up the bike along with one other person and the other 5 have to ride back to Bayeux asap. SO we quickly decide that it is definitely not going to be a girl who stays behind and waits for the shop owner to come pick up her and the bike and then have to deal with an incredibly awkward ride home, not to mention the possibility of him being a complete creeper. We deduce that John Sterr is the best rider out of all of us so he should continue riding, and it’s between Rob and I. Together we decided that Rob was a better bike rider than me so I was the one chosen to stay behind in bufu France and wait for the guy to pick up the bike.

The Church in BUFU France.

Eventually the riders ride off into the distance, leave me in bufu France, while I wait for the bike shop owner to pick up the bike and me. I am not going to lie, I was scared. The town was small but I don’t know what hick-French people are like. The only thing I could think of what the Human Centipede. I kept repeating to myself  “You’re not going to be a human centipede damnit!”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0piFZXT8Zxo&feature=fvw

Human Centipede Trailer. Please watch following the end of my story if you have not done so please.

And before I knew it, the guy from the bike shop arrives, 15 minutes didn’t even pass by, I got lucky. The ride back was somewhat awkward but I tried my best to talk to him in what little French I knew and I apologized like a million times. I make it back to the shop and wait for the other to come back. After waiting around for about 45 minutes, maybe more, it’s 8:50 and the rest of the crew arrive back! United at last and they look completely exhausted. I felt like such an asshole for not having to ride back but we really had no choice. The others talk about how physically enduring it was getting back to Bayeux but we are all really glad to be together and off of our bikes. And in the end, the shop owner didn’t charge us for the flat tire or the late bike return, I guess he felt bad for us. What nice people country French men are.

We grab a bite to eat at this delicious restaurant in town and reminisce about how we seized the day in epic adventurelike fashion. We were tired, but proud nevertheless. The last train back to Paris left at 6 PM so we knew for most of the day we were staying the night in Bayeux but didn’t bother looking for a place to stay until AFTER dinner. By this time it’s 11 PM and we thought about sleeping outside somewhere but it was raining so that idea was thrown out the window the moment we stepped back outside. We walked around and called for a place that was still open and at one point we considered sleeping in the church (no joke) but found that the doors were locked. We did find one place that was open right next to the train station and ended up sleeping there for the night. Finally, all was well in the universe, our day had finally come to an end.

In the morning we walked around Bayeux, saw the church, went back to the boulanger for a quick lunch, said goodbye to our bike shop friend one last time, and finally took the train back to Paris. On the way back I couldn’t help but admire our youthfulness. Only now in this time of our lives can we really do something so unplanned, so spontaneous as this. It was an amazing weekend, filled with several moments of sheer terror and panic, but we got through it. I don’t regret it one bit.

Living Situation(s)

Upon arrival into Paris, my classmates and I literally had no idea where we were going to live. We took a bus to ENSA-V and sat through a short presentation regarding living in Versailles and were given our living assignment shortly afterwards.

approaching the apartment.

A Mr. John (not Johnathan) Sterr and I are roommates and we are situated along the Avenue de Paris, the main road that leads up to the Chaeteau. Google map it if you don’t believe me. For privacy reasons, I am not allowed to discuss the exact location of our apartment, nor am I allowed to give out the identity of the couple who are housing us. Instead we’ll refer to them as Mr. and Mrs. Frenchy. Mr. and Mrs. Frenchy are a super cool older couple. They speak English well, something that isn’t anything but guaranteed, and they are really cool with the fact we can’t speak much French. Although, Sterr and I decided we will try and talk in French to them as much as possible out of respect for their culture and our desire to actually learn the language. Our foreign language teachers would be most proud of us.

We share a flat with Mr. and Mrs. Frenchy and essentially have one half of the flat to ourselves while they have their nicer side of the apartment. We have access to their kitchen, with our own supplies, within the designated hours of permission. Sterr and I also have our own bathroom. However, in France land, the toilet and shower are commonly in different rooms of the house. Also, the shower head isn’t locked in a fixed location and requires to be grasped with your hand in order to do the washing. AND they encourage you to turn the water off when you’re scrubbing away and to turn it back on when you rinse. Ecologically it makes sense. However, it does need some getting used to but I really can’t complain. But I do miss that Lake Michigan water at our disposal.

bathroom. I opted not to retake this photo.

shower.

bidet.

Which leaves us to our rooms. I have a girls room. The walls are a light lavender.  My bedding consists of an array of pinks, whites, blacks, and lime greens. But hey, I’m not one to judge. Mr. and Mrs. Frenchy had a daughter that lived with them, it only makes sense that she had a girl’s room. What I guess I am trying to say is I’m not gay.

The bedroom also lacks a dresser or an armoire which makes putting clothes away a lot more interesting. Instead I’m given these IKEA-esque, squared shelving units.

presumably from Sweden.

my gurly bed.

It may not be the most scenic or convenient location but there certainly are perks about our place. Wifi. Not everyone has it and we do and thus able to communicate with the outside world efficiently and update a blog no one really reads. Also, living with a family enables us to learn the language better and have someone who knows France and Europe at our disposal. And what I like about our place the most is walking out the door to this everyday.

syc-syc-Sycamore.

Flight 667 Nonstop to Paris

I’ve made it. I’ve survived my first weekend. And most importantly, I haven’t been mugged by any Internationally-Renown Ninja, Pick Pocketers. The days leading up to my departure were full of mixed feelings. A little bit of anxiety, a lot of excitement, and the perfect balance of clarity. After all, I am leaving the country for nine months, how can you not feel somewhat emotionally overwhelmed all the meanwhile trying to pack away your life for an entire school year?

Thursday was my last day in The States and I am proud to say my last meal was 2 hotdogs + fries, and a Cherry RC from none other than Henry’s Hotdogs on Ogden Avenue in Cicero. It’s within the opinion of my close friends and family and I that Henry’s is a hidden gem in the hotdog community.

Hotdog lovers. Go to it.

In true Corpuz Family fashion we arrived at the airport later than what was suggested (Three hrs before take off not two!). Although the line to check bags required waiting over an hour, I had plenty of time to kill before boarding, let alone take off. There was certainly lots of excitement at the Gate. A lot of us haven’t seen each other since last semester and we were about to hop on a place for Europe so one can imagine how gitty we all were in our seats.

About 15 minutes into waiting at the gate, the intercom interrupts the bland, airport music and we’re finally ready to be boarded. The gittiness increases 10 fold. No one can really believe what is about to happen in all honestly. We’ve been waiting months, some of us years, to board this flight. And for you LOST fans (if you really can’t stand LOST or obnoxious LOST fanatics such as myself I suggest you move on to the next paragraph like now), I was given the seat 42 F, which happened to be Ana Lucia’s seat number. Now that made the plane ride a lot more intoxicating than any human being should ever feel about a mild coincidence involving a TV show and real life. What’s even more pathetic is how I knew at the top of my head Ana Lucia’s seat number. Oh Benji…good god.

“42 F. Wanna trade?”

The plane ride wasn’t too bad to say the least. Our row consisted of Jackie Davis, Mathew Barret, and Allison (Allie) Gloude, all of which are classmates. Since it was a French flight, we were given our God given right to be served alcohol damn it. I had Champagne, and it was OK, nothing special. But to be completely honest, the moment I knew it was going to be a plane ride to remember was when I was browsing through the movie menu and I found The Last Airbender. And may I say it lived up to the hype of being disastrously bad. This movie was bad. Not The Room bad, but M. Night Shamalayan bad. WOW, is all I have to say.

Oh god.

Another theme of the 8 hour plane ride was playing Who Wants to be a Millionaire? It was one of the many games that were available on and Allie, Matt, and I tried to make it to 1,000,000 pounds (cuz it wasn’t the American version). And because it was the English, English version we were given questions about British culture that we were completely oblivious to. In the end, we only made it to 500,000 pounds but did not get the question wrong. However, on the way back, after months of culture absorption, we’re bound to make it to the million mark.

Eventually we did make it to Charles de Gaulle airport and we couldn’t believe it either. I was expecting the plane to crash and to text to my twitter account in order to be forever remembered as the guy who twittered while the plane was crashing. No such luck.